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There seems to be a massive societal consensus that attractiveness can be measured by body mass. But the truth is, there are certain places on a woman’s body that, in order for her to be deemed attractive, must not be skinny at all. So life as a virtual toothpick has never given me any sense of confidence in my looks. Instead of indulging in the high-profile social life of a pretty girl, I spend most of my time with my nose in a book. Still, I try to amuse myself with sad truths, thinking things like: At least I know if cup size were a class, I’d get an “A” in that, too.
But when I was around him, the usual wry jokes to myself concerning my linear form didn’t come to mind. However, the super-saturated insecurity concealed underneath did, regardless of the fact we had been together for over a year (a happy truth that I found nearly impossible to reify.)
And that’s why when he handed me the strapless dress to try on, I marched off to find somewhere private to change. Before I could escape, he grabbed my arm and spun me around.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked with a smirk.
“I’m not going to rip my clothes off in public. I’ll be quick, I promise.”
“Well first of all, I don’t think you could qualify this as public,” he gestured to the deserted boutique, “and I’m against this whole bridesmaid thing anyway, so you don’t have to put that much effort into this. I mean, really, why can’t your aunt find someone her own age to dress up like a confused chameleon?”
My aunt’s wedding theme was contrasting colors. God only knows why. I laughed lightly and shrugged in response.
“Besides, you can just pull it over whatever you’re wearing under this,” he slipped his finger under the two straps that showed on my shoulder. They shouldn’t have showed. The sweater I was wearing was not supposed to be off-the-shoulder. But nothing ever fit me right. Not really.
I swatted his hand away, embarrassed. “Fine.” I pouted, taking one last glance around the room before slipping off the sweater. His smirk widened, so I threw the garment at his face.
“Calm down, hon, you’re still entirely dressed.”
I rolled my eyes and pulled on the orange and blue dress that looked like molding macaroni and cheese. Without being asked, he pulled up the zipper in back, and stepped away to observe. I shimmied my jeans off for the full effect, glad that the hideous dress covered my underwear, which happed to be spotted with rainbow turtles.
“Gosh, that color looks so great on you!” he joked, imitating a female voice. I laughed, which was difficult to do with my chest puffed out at full-lung capacity. I was also highly preoccupied by the uncertainty of what would happen if I unclenched my arms from my sides. He cocked his head and smiled, seeming to read my innermost thoughts and fears.
“Dance with me,” he commanded, coyly.
I had a bad feeling about what might happen if I tried to move in this thing. The bust was about three sizes too big.
“No, I don’t think we should even validate this fabric-vomit with that,” I evaded.
“Come’on, dance with me,” he insisted holding out his hand. The smirk played across his lips; he had tried and failed to stifle it. His smiles were like lighting: captivating, electrifying, and completely impossible to control.
I hesitated, now fairly confident of what was going to happen if I reached out and took his hand.
“Please?” he said softly, the lighting flashing again.
‘Please’ was my kryptonite, and I feared he was starting to catch on. I nodded in conciliation and inhaled until I could feel my heartbeat in my throat. But inevitably, when I reached out to slide my hand in his, the dress dropped straight to the ground. And the rainbow turtles, for the one and only time in their existence, saw the bright light of day.
He doubled over in laughter as I frantically pulled my jeans on.
“You knew!” I complained noisily.
His laughter rumbled on. Who said thunder always came before lightning…
“You. Are. Going. To. DIE.”
My empty threats brought him to higher levels of hysteria.
“Do you think this is funny?” I asked angrily. He was laughing, but I didn’t tell my “at least I’d get an ‘A’” joke. He was just laughing. And didn’t that mean he was making fun of me? Because if they’re not laughing with you, they must be laughing at you. All the insecurities churning inside me were boiling to the surface. I was about to erupt like some kind of embarrassment-triggered volcano.
“Yes,” he answered, the gentle thunder tampering off.
“It’s funny that clothes just fall off of me because—because of—”
“Gravity?” he offered.
My eyes narrowed on him. “Yeah, because of freaking gravity.”
“If anyone should be upset with gravity here, it’s me. It’s taking my job, you know.”
“Well, I plan on it being my job. One day. In the future. If I ever get you to stop hating me for...the turtles,” he choked on a laugh as he pulled my sweater over my head.
“And what job is that.”
“Isn’t it obvious, hon? Undressing you.”
I started to laugh out of incredulity, but the sound turned into more of a half-gag, half-snort. Because I guess I hadn’t embarrassed myself enough for one day.
I blushed, and didn’t say anything.
“So you wanted to know why that was funny?”
“Yes,” I said, trying to sound like I was still mad at him.
“It’s funny how unclearly you see yourself,” he answered, with a sweet honesty I knew I did not deserve.
“You’re so careful around me all the time—like, if you show me you’re a human being I’ll suddenly stop loving you. It drives me crazy how perfect you are. I wish you would make a mistake once in a while so I wouldn’t look so bad, so you would be a little less out-of-my-league…”
“Out of your…are you kidding me?”
“See! You’re doing it again! You sell yourself short constantly.”
“I don’t—I’m not trying to—I love you.”
Lighting stuck. The most beautiful, contagious kind.
“I know. That’s why I want you to see in yourself at least a little of what I see in you. Repeat after me: I am beautiful.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I am beautiful!” he repeated.
“I am beautiful.” I mimicked apathetically.
“I am GORgeous.”
“I am GORgeous.”
“Actually, I’m smokin’ hot.”
“Actually, I’m smokin’ hot.” I giggled.
“My man is so cool, I’m never going to let him go.”
“Never ever,” I promised with a smile.
He smiled back and lightly kissed my forehead.
“Tonight, my man’s going to team up with gravity and—”
“Not happening,” I replied through laughter.
He admitted it was worth a try and laced his fingers through mine.
That’s when I decided that straight A’s were perfectly fine with me.